Internet of Things

Re-evaluating the need for 'I' in IoT

Shutterstock image: illuminated connections between devices.

There are expected to be 50 billion connected devices worldwide by 2020, but researchers don't have a useful way to describe and categorize elements of the internet of things.

Jeffrey Voas, a computer scientist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said the phrase "network of things" offers a better way to understand connected devices and their security challenges. NoT describes a connected system -- whether the "things" communicate only with internal networks or the internet.

"You can have a network of things without the internet," Voas said at the July 25 Connected Government event hosted by FCW. He is the author of NIST Special Publication 800-183, which describes the concept behind such networks and characterizes them by five building blocks:

  • Electronic sensors that monitor environments and physical properties.
  • Aggregators that handle the data and break it down into something
  • Communication channels that transmit the data.
  • External utilities such as software and hardware products and services.
  • Decision triggers, which create the final output.

Additionally, six elements help determine the trustworthiness of a NoT: environment, cost, geographic location, owner, device ID and snapshot in time.

Those elements and building blocks make it possible to define, measure and compare components of a network.

The network of things is not a new concept, but it is becoming increasingly important now that so many small, inexpensive, third-party devices are being connected, Voas said. The concept and vocabulary will help researchers understand how to secure large networks.

About the Author

Ben Berliner is an editorial fellow at FCW. He is a 2017 graduate of Kenyon College, and has interned at the Center for Responsive Politics and at Sunlight Foundation.

He can be contacted at bberliner@fcw.com.

Click here for previous articles by Berliner.


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